Joakim Noah had successful surgery on his thumb today. He will have a follow-up visit on Monday and will likely need a cast. When speaking about his need to have surgery, Noah said, “it sucks, but it’s [the] right thing.”
With Noah down for anywhere from eight to ten weeks for the Chicago Bulls the same old Bulls story of recent years begins to emerge once again. Noah played through the pain this season and kept it quiet. It was obvious that his thumb was bothering him though as he wrapped it regularly. Yet, he continued to produce because the team needed him as they waited for Carlos Boozer to return to health after tripping over his gym bag this summer.
Injuries during the regular season have unfortunately become the modus operandi of the Bulls in recent seasons but that in no way undermines their resilience. Last year, with Noah out, the Bulls went 6-12 and lost ten in a row. Derrick Rose missed four of the games during the ten game slide so that certainly did not improve their chances of success. Nonetheless, the Bulls, with the backing of a Rose guarantee, battled through the pain on route to the playoffs.
This season Chicago is a different squad. They brought in pieces to help them battle beyond and in spite of injuries. Last season it was Brad Miller and Taj Gibson who stepped in during Noah’s absence. This year Miller is gone. However, in his place the Bulls have Omer Asik and a veteran in Kurt Thomas who has proved time and again that he is still a valuable frontcourt commodity with a nice midrange jump shot with the ability to defend and rebound. Certainly, the Bulls will need all the help they can get from their depth now.
More than just bench help, the Bulls will need to keep their young point guard healthy. Rose has been battling a sprained right wrist, bruised elbow, a tweaked ankle, and sore hip the past several games and has been listed as day-to-day. Ever the determined player, Rose said, “If it is up to me, I’m playing. I’m sore, but I should be able to play through it.” Chicago certainly needs him to. If they were to lose Rose for any length of time the Bulls would find themselves in a precarious situation.
Chicago currently sits in first place in their division with a record of 16-8 which has them in fourth overall in the eastern conference. They likely will not seed much if any ground to the Pacers who are back to Indy .500 form in the central division. What they do have to worry about is being caught and surpassed by Orlando, Atlanta, and New York who are all breathing down Chicago’s neck. The Knicks and Hawks are a game back of the Bulls while Orlando is just a half game back. Milwaukee is also showing a marked improvement in their play of late and may start making a push in the central division.
What bodes well for Chicago is that the next ten weeks are arguably the easiest part of their schedule. The Bulls will not see a considerably tough stretch of games in a row until 7 February through the beginning of March. Until that time the only teams that Chicago faces with winning records are the Knickerbockers, Celtics, Heat, Mavericks, and Magic during a span of 25 games. By that time Noah should be back to full health and they will need him.
On 7 February the Bulls will be on the road in Portland in the middle of a five game road trip swing through the west. After Portland they travel to Salt Lake City and then to New Orleans before returning home for two games in which they host the Spurs. They then host the Heat two games later before going on another five game road trip in which they will play the Bucks, Wizards, Hawks, Magic, and Heat. For this stretch of games the Bulls will need to be at full strength as the battle for playoff seeding will be in full force especially after the All Star break.